Donald Trump Claims Nomination Of A Party That Remains Divided
Donald Trump completed his unlikely journey to the Republican Presidential Nomination last night, but he the party he now leads remains divided.
One year and one month after entering the race for President, Donald Trump claimed the nomination of the Republican Party last night, but the divisions and fractures that his candidacy have created over the past thirteen months remain readily apparent:
CLEVELAND — Donald J. Trump was formally crowned the Republican nominee for president at the party’s convention on Tuesday, ending a tumultuous primary season but not the nagging questions about his polarizing candidacy as he once again found himself embroiled in controversy.
With his campaign appearing in disarray after his wife, Melania, delivered a convention speech cribbed in part from one once given by Michelle Obama, Mr. Trump officially claimed the nomination. But the gap between Mr. Trump and the party he now aims to lead yawned as wide as ever across the convention.
At times, the only unifying appeals — the only themes truly capable of rallying the Republican Party, even briefly — were ominous denunciations of Hillary Clinton. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Trump ally stung by his rejection in the hunt to be Mr. Trump’s running mate, rebounded with a call to arms against Mrs. Clinton.
Casting himself as her prosecutor in a mock trial, Mr. Christie roused the crowd to spontaneous chants of “Lock her up!”
ut such moments of unity passed quickly in an evening that showcased the Republican Party’s crippling divisions from the start. In the roll call vote that began the night, formally marking Mr. Trump’s capture of the Republican nomination, 721 delegates cast their votes for candidates other than Mr. Trump — the most significant expression of party dissent since 1976, when Republicans had a contested convention.
And if more traditional Republicans in the audience showed limited enthusiasm for Mr. Trump, the misgivings were mutual: Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, drew scattered boos from the crowd in multiple appearances on stage. Mr. McConnell, who has both endorsed Mr. Trump and criticized his campaign, offered a restrained embrace on Tuesday, stressing in his remarks that Mr. Trump would sign laws passed by the Republican-held Senate.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who was reluctant to endorse Mr. Trump, was more direct in his remarks over the party’s rift — what he called “our arguments this year.” But, Mr. Ryan said, “democracy is a series of choices.”
The mood of the event careened uneasily back and forth, from exultant celebrations cheered on by the Trump family to sober discourses on conservative policy guided by Republican congressional leaders to attacks on Mrs. Clinton.
While Mr. Ryan, representing the G.O.P.’s governing wing, laid out a vision for “a reformed tax code that rewards free enterprise,” Ben Carson, the physician who briefly caught fire last year in his presidential campaign, used part of his address to claim that Mrs. Clinton is a student of Saul Alinsky, the 20th-century activist and community organizer.
The roll call itself was punctuated with signals of discontent. When Ohio cast 66 delegate votes for its governor, John Kasich, a chorus of intermingled cheers and boos rose from the crowd. Mr. Kasich, a Republican, has not endorsed Mr. Trump and has been a pointed critic of his political style.
At another juncture in the roll call, another Republican governor who has not backed Mr. Trump, Susana Martinez of New Mexico, appeared poised to reconcile with the Republican nominee.
But as she stepped forward to cast her state’s votes, Ms. Martinez passed on a chance to publicly back Mr. Trump. Instead she passed the microphone to a young member of the New Mexico delegation, who spoke in her stead to hail Mr. Trump.
Alphabetically, Mr. Trump’s home state was next up, but it delayed casting its votes so that it would be the one that put Mr. Trump over the 1,237-delegate threshold. His son Donald Jr. announced on the convention floor that New York’s delegates had delivered the votes he needed.
“It’s not a campaign anymore, it’s a movement,” said the younger Mr. Trump, surrounded by his three adult siblings. Reflecting his father’s brashness, he pledged to put New York, which has not voted Republican in a presidential election in 32 years, in play.
The hall echoed with the strains of “New York, New York.” Giant screens hanging over the arena glittered with an animation of gold fireworks and a three-word proclamation: “Over the Top.”
Amid the celebration, some delegates remained seated and other seats on the floor were entirely empty. In big sections of the mezzanine, row upon row of red-backed seats stood mostly vacant.
The passionless tone that prevailed for most of the evening made Mr. Christie’s chest-thumping speech all the more noteworthy. For the second consecutive night, long stretches of the program were desultory, and the convention floor emptied out well before the speeches ended.
I have not watched much of the convention coverage so far this year, so my exposure to what’s going on on the floor via C-Span and the cable networks — when the switch over from the parade of the talking heads to actually cover the convention itself, that is — has been limited at best. Nonetheless, what I have seen has shown a party that clearly seems to be less enthusiastic about its chances in the General Election than it has at any time in recent memory. Even in 2008, when public support for the Republican Party was at the lowest point it had seen since Watergate and President Nixon’s resignation, those present at the convention in Minneapolis managed to put on an enthusiastic face notwithstanding the fact that the odds were against them. Four years ago, the prospect of limiting Barack Obama to a single term brought a lot of energy to Tampa, even for an arguably bland candidate known more for managerial competence than inspiring rhetoric like Mitt Romney. Given that, one would have expected that the Republican Party of 2016 would be even more eager to win in November, especially given the fact that the White House has been out of Republican hands for eight years and the GOP is faced with the prospect of that continuing for another four to eight years. Instead, what one sees unfolding is largely a party that is going through the motions, nominating Trump because they really don’t have any other choice at this point but doing so with the fear that they’re just leading the party to another loss in November that could not only keep the White House out of hands for the longest stretch since the twenty year stretch between Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election in 1932 and Dwight Eisenhower’s victory in 1952. Additionally, the fact of the #NeverTrump movement, and the Republicans at all levels who have pledged that they will not support Trump in November regardless of what that means for the party’s prospects seems to be hanging over the proceedings and seems to be threatening party unity going forward for 2016 and beyond.
It shouldn’t be all that surprising that the convention isn’t entirely enthusiastic about nominating Trump, of course. Notwithstanding the fact that he ended up winning a majority of delegates, Trump has unfavorable ratings that make one wonder just how it is that he managed to make it as far as he has so far. Even among self-identified Republicans who say they are going to vote for him, Trump’s unfavorable ratings are among the highest we’ve ever seen for major party nominee in the modern era. Given that, it’s hardly surprising that even die-hard Republicans aren’t exactly thrilled about the prospect of watching him lead the party over the next four months. Additionally, while Trump is closer to Clinton in the polls than many people likely anticipated, the fact remains that he continues to trail her both nationally and in key battleground states. The likelihood is that this Clinton lead will have grown by the time the dust settles after the back-to-back conventions. Combined with the reality of an Electoral College map where Democrats have a clear advantage, and the fact that Trump is running a campaign based on ideas that many Republicans are clearly uncomfortable with, the fact that Republicans may seen less than enthusiastic about is hardly surprising. Added into all of this, of course, are all the Republicans who are sitting the convention out, and that includes not only prominent party leaders like the Bush family and many of the leading Governors in the Republican field, some of whom are up for re-election in the fall, but also ordinary party members and activists turned off by Trump’s message and by the supporters he has brought along with him.